2011 BMW 528i Long Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2011 BMW 5 Series Long Term Road Test

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2011 BMW 528i: Maintaining a Beige Interior

November 21, 2011

Read the introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.

See all of the blog posts on this vehicle.

Fully redesigned for 2011, BMW's 5 Series sedan got a new look, larger dimensions, a new eight-speed automatic transmission and even more in-car technology.

Having already tested a turbocharged, 300-horsepower 535i, for this long-term test we ordered the volume model, a naturally aspirated 528i with all the electronic gadgetry and comfort options BMW offers.

And we mean all of it. The 2011 BMW 528i carries a base MSRP of $45,000. Then we added $4,500 for the options package that included rear sunshades, heated front seats, satellite radio, premium hi-fi radio and a navigation system. Another $2,200 got us the bliss-inducing multicontour seats. The heated steering wheel and heated rear seats cost $1,050. Xenon headlights were $900. Heck, we ordered $15,000 in options overall, which put our test car's price above $60,000. Too much dough for a car with 240 horses?

That was one of the questions we set out to answer when we took delivery of this very blue 528i on September 7, 2010. Day One of its 12-month test.

Good and Bad
Our initial impressions of the 2011 BMW 528i were over-the-top positive. Power was not a problem with the normally aspirated six. The new eight-speed automatic was fast making friends and cabin materials quality was top-notch.

The optional multicontour front seats feature a two-piece, independently adjustable seatback, which maximizes comfort and puts these among the best seats in the business. The sedan's smooth highway ride made it that much more inviting. Fourth-generation iDrive and multidirectional cameras secured its technological qualifications.

But we weren't sold on everything out of the gate. The 528i had one undeniable drivability quirk, an inconsistent and odd throttle calibration that most, but not all staffers, could not make peace with. It was never a problem on the open road, or at speed, just from a dead stop or at low city speeds. And for some staffers, it was a serious, even unforgivable issue.

Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh wrote, "It turns out a straight-6 sans turbo can move our long-term 528i with ample conviction. All it requires is the willingness to exploit the rev range?. Oddly enough, when you're leaving from a dead stop this normally aspirated engine exhibits an annoying pause similar to that of our erstwhile twin-turbo 750i. The lack of turbos in the former suggests that it's some kind of drive-by-wire throttle delay/fussiness creeping into certain modern BMWs."

For Kavanagh the throttle tip-in issue was a deal breaker, but not for IL Editor Ed Hellwig, who just didn't find it bothersome at all or Editor in Chief Scott Oldham, who said, "While I do wish the throttle response was more natural, I get used to it within a few miles every time I drive the 528i. It's not a big deal for me. I would own this car happily, odd throttle and all."

After a proper break-in we sent the 2011 BMW 528i to the test track. Numbers were strong (zero to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds [6.6 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip]), cementing the 528i's sport sedan status and reinforcing the fact that its 240-hp 3.0-liter is more than strong enough. In fact, there was not a single staff member all year who complained of a lack of power.

Meanwhile, BMW is ditching the 3.0-liter six for 2012. Next year an all-new more fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at the same 240 hp will power the 528i.

Our instrumented track testing did also reveal a softer side of the new 5 Series. Senior Editor Josh Jacquot commented on the sedan's athleticism. "Feels fairly soft in rapid transitions — even in Sport Plus. It's well-mannered, however. Chassis isn't snappy like an Infiniti. BMW is showing a change of direction here."

Free and Sometimes Frustrating Maintenance
Our early reactions were still coming in when the first engine light illuminated.

With just 1,100 miles on the ticker we charted a course to Long Beach BMW. After an extended and particularly awful experience with an incompetent service advisor, parts were ordered to repair a leak from the emissions system. Two weeks later they arrived and the fuel filler neck was replaced. Before those two weeks passed, however, another engine light interrupted our test. This alert suggested a key fob issue, which turned out to be a false alarm.

Just beyond the 10K milestone the BMW warned us of another problem. This time it was the driver seat. A look at the onboard owner's manual instructed us how to recalibrate the seat and restore its memory function. This failure would repeat itself once more before our test was complete.

Still, our maintenance costs up to this point were zero. Which was, of course, a good thing. In fact, our 2011 BMW 528i didn't even request its first oil change until 17,000 miles appeared on the odometer. Shortly thereafter we delivered the 528i to Santa Monica BMW for its first service, an experience that was nearly as awkward as our Long Beach BMW treatment. BMW's free scheduled maintenance program paid the bill. But there was more. The dealer explained that our car's suspension was way out of alignment, its rear tires were dangerously worn and we had a nail in one tire.

The nail turned out to be a 1/8-inch finishing nail, no harm done. But the rear Dunlop run-flats were indeed due for a change. We swapped two of them out for a pricey $900.

Honestly, we found it disappointing that the 528i's rear tires did not last longer, especially since they cost so damn much. Sure, they are soft summer tires, but this isn't exactly a muscle car with tire-smoking power, and we weren't hitting the canyons every weekend.

Still, they were our only out-of-pocket expense throughout the test.

Our other durability issue with our test car was its beige carpeting, which soiled easily and proved hard to keep clean. We weren't exactly anal about it, but we did make an effort to keep it from looking too bad. In the end our advice is to get the black interior with the darker carpet.

On the Open Road
Some of our long-term cars never reach our test goal of 20,000 miles during their 12 months with us. Our 2011 BMW 528i, however, made that mileage milestone with ease. This is one of those cars you just want to get in and drive. And we did.

If there was a road to be tripped, rest assured, the 5 was on it. Its popularity with the Edmunds staff was largely due to its personalization features and highway comforts.

We pointed the 528i toward the open road and sent it on trips of varying distance. One of several weekends to Las Vegas garnered, "The 800-way power seats are superb. The ride is excellent. Power is plentiful and I actually got 30.8 mpg."

The 5 Series accompanied another editor to Yosemite National Park for a fall wedding. He wrote, "The eight-speed transmission was awesome down Tioga Pass. No constant search for the proper gear. No obnoxiously loud engine braking. Just a safe, steady descent." One national park wasn't enough. So we turned the 5 around and sent it to Yellowstone National Park as a final hurrah with just days remaining in our 1-year test.

After a weekend trip to San Francisco, Oldham wrote, "I now have newfound respect and appreciation for our 528i. This is a great road trip machine. My entire family found it to be very comfortable, and I had very little fatigue, even after 5 or 6 hours behind the wheel without a break."

But it was the car's trip to Montana and back to Los Angeles that cemented its Road Trip King status. After the trip, IL Senior Editor Erin Riches praised the BMW's comfort and fuel economy. She wrote, "I think a BMW 5 Series should be an excellent road trip car above all else. And when you look at engine performance/personality, ride quality and fuel consumption/range, the 528i ticks all the boxes. Is it as engaging and fun as older 5 Series sedans I've driven? No. But it's still a sedan that you can get in and drive for hundreds, even thousands of miles, and the car feels positively in its element. I was also very pleased by our 528i's respectable rate of fuel consumption (29.3 mpg for the whole trip, with a best tank of 30.8 mpg. I also dug the car's extremely long cruising range — my best run lasted 531.1 miles."

Not Perfect, but...
The 2011 BMW 528i performed well overall. Time allowed us the opportunity to dive deep into its vast electronic and personalization features. This car was packed with every bell and whistle BMW had to offer and it took awhile to get in sync with all of it. Once dialed in, however, we really enjoyed the gadgetry. Time also gave us perspective on the 5 Series.

We intentionally asked for the base engine to see if it detracted from the driving experience. In terms of usable power it was more than strong enough, but around town, delivery of that power was too unpredictable to enjoy for some. The throttle calibration issue was constantly getting in the way of our enjoying what was essentially a very capable drivetrain and one of the best sedans in the world. Was it a deal-breaker? Only to a few. For the rest, this was outweighed by the sedan's many other merits.

Furthermore, those throttle response complaints are rendered moot by the introduction of the 2012 model of this car. The new turbocharged four-cylinder in the 2012 528i exhibits none of the fussiness of our long-term car.

As a road trip car, however, our 528i was superb. It delivered up to 30 miles per gallon on long stretches, was whisper-quiet inside and felt rock solid on the road. The excellent seats, spacious interior and improved iDrive controls were also appreciated.

Our 528i also proved to be very durable and very reliable. BMW picked up the tab for all scheduled and non-scheduled maintenance, although the $900 tire bill was more than a little disappointing. Then there was the below-average treatment we received from the Long Beach and Santa Monica BMW dealerships, which is just inexcusable, especially at this price point. And it was surprising because we've received excellent service at both of these dealers in years past.

Despite those dealer issues, the 2011 BMW 528i is a sedan we highly recommend. This new larger/softer 5 Series isn't quite at sporty as its predecessors, but after living with it for 12 months and driving it more than 20,000 miles we found little that should keep it from remaining a dominant force in the luxury sedan segment.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: None (over 12 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: $903.74
Warranty Repairs: Replace fuel filler neck
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Days Out of Service: 1
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 30.9 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 14.7 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 23.1 mpg
True Market Value at service end: $46,870 (private party)
Depreciation: $13,180 or 22% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 20,518 miles

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests